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COVID-19 vaccination | Gap between first and second doses starkest in India

An elderly woman waits to receive a second dose of the Covishield COVID-19 vaccine at a primary health centre in Hyderabad on October 21, 2021.   | Photo Credit: AFP

India has delivered over a billion vaccine doses, making it the second-highest dispenser of COVID-19 vaccines globally but the gap between the proportion of population that has got at least one dose and two doses is widest in India.

According to the Bloomberg Tracker which maps vaccination trends globally, 82% of China’s population has got at least one dose and 76% two doses — a ratio of 1.1. In the United States this ratio is 1.15 (66.2% with at least one dose and 57.3% fully dosed). For the European Union as a whole this works out 1.04 (69% with at least one dose and 66% with two doses).

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In India, however, this gap is more than twice at 2.4 (51% with at least one dose and just 21.9% with two doses).

The key factor responsible for this, according to experts, is the gap between two doses of Covishield — which comprises 88% of the administered vaccines in India. The spacing of 12-16 weeks is among the longest in the world. Further vaccine administration has taken off in earnest only after July.

The dosage gap between two shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is four weeks and the Astrazeneca vaccine is administered at an eight week gap in the United Kingdom.

COVID-19 vaccination | Gap between first and second doses starkest in India
 

On October 23, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, following a meeting with representatives from States, urged them to “speed up vaccination”.

“Highlighting the sizeable number of eligible beneficiaries who have not received their second dose of vaccine, the Union Health Secretary urged the States and UTs to focus on those beneficiaries who are waiting for their second dose after their interval period has been over,” a statement from the Union Health Ministry noted.

So, far 71.24 crore first doses — covering 76% of the eligible population — and 30.06 crore second doses — covering 32.0% of the eligible population — have been administered, the Health Ministry noted.

worker carries a billboard during the unveiling of a special aircraft livery to mark 100 crore of COVID-19 vaccine milestone in New Delhi on October 21, 2021.

worker carries a billboard during the unveiling of a special aircraft livery to mark 100 crore of COVID-19 vaccine milestone in New Delhi on October 21, 2021.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

This works out to about 40 crore people having got only one shot and 30 crore being fully vaccinated.

However a perusal of vaccination data shows that after September 17, when the country recorded an all-time high of 2.5 crore vaccinations on a single day, there has been a steady decline in the number of immunisations. For over a month, the number of vaccines administered weekly has fallen from 6.6 crore in the week September 11-17 to 4.2 crore in the first week of October and 3.6 crore in the week of October 16-22.

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However during this same period there has been a rise in the second doses administered. In fact, for the first time since May 8-14, the weekly number of second doses exceeded single doses. There were 2.1 crore second doses administered in the last week compared to 1.5 crore first doses.

The number of those getting their first doses, however, has fallen from four crore to 1.5 crore. India has set itself a target of fully inoculating all adults, roughly 94 crore, by the year end for which it needs to administer over one crore doses a day.

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Experts say that there is no evidence yet of vaccine hesitancy in India. The discrepancy in first and second shots are, so far, better explained in the gap between scheduled doses. However experience with previous vaccination showed that covering the last 10-15% of any population, anywhere in the world, was challenging.

“It can be that there’s a proportion of the population that wants the vaccine but cannot access it. So special efforts have to be made to ensure that. We’ve also seen a large spike in first doses since July following the second wave and improved availability and factoring the 12-16 week gap, this is when we would see a rise in second dose numbers,” public health expert and epidemiologist, Dr.Chandrakant Lahariya told The Hindu.


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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 5:42:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/covid-19-vaccination-gap-between-first-and-second-doses-starkest-in-india/article37142782.ece

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